Note: The vote to select Bridgeport’s Democratic town chairman is scheduled for Tuesday night at Schwaben Hall on Horace Street. Should be a hoot! Predictions anyone? What candidate has 46 votes? Will it be the John Stafstrom/Cynthia King combo, former chair Mario Testa or Black Rock District Leader Danny Roach?
The befuddling doggedness of Mayor Bill Finch’s effort to canonize John Stafstrom as Democratic Party leader exists in Finch’s standing as a new chief executive.
See, new mayors are supposed to have goodwill, benefit of the doubt, optimism within their standing and a clean slate. So it’s not so unusual that a new mayor should be lining up for votes for his chosen party leader. It is, however, unusual, for a new mayor having to work so hard to keep a long-term party leader in play. Stafstrom’s the incumbent and Finch’s flapping his wings like a humming bird to keep his guy soaring.
If East Side District Leader Dottie Guman wanted to be a compromise candidate to lead the party, Finch would switch gears and urge everyone to knight her, despite kicking her in the teeth with a bombastic tirade after she dared to work against Stafstrom for telling her to fuck off. Finch has apologized to Guman, but I’m sensing that their relationship will never be the same. Dottie Guman, Mother Goose of the party, is starting not to trust the man whose political career she helped guide all the way to mayor.
The hypocrisy going on right now to select a party chair is thicker than Eliot Spitzer’s prosecuting prostitution rings and then hooking up with one.
“It would be terrible to go back to those days with Mario Testa,” Finch is telling DTC members on the payroll whose votes he wants, because Mario was the town chairman during the Ganim years.
Hypocrisy? You bet. I’ve known John Stafstrom for a long time. He’s smart, cagey, perceptive and persuasive. In his time he was an asset to the city, and still could be. He’s not effective in his current role. There was a time Stafstrom was the good government guy, a voice of reason in party politics even when he had enemies. John’s strength is patience. But with Stafstrom as party leader and city’s bond counsel, Finch cannot receive the full benefit of Stafstrom’s advice because the decisions John now makes are on behalf of the gypsies, tramps and thieves of the party. What makes it worse is John’s total circumvention of state law (smart lawyers do that).
State law prohibits Stafstrom, as an employee of a state contractor (his law firm) serving as official head of the party. So in a neat slip around the law he has persuaded a nice lady named Cynthia King to serve as his marionette, the “official” town chair while he pulls the strings as vice chair. In addition, Stafstrom has suffered a string of losses that raise serious questions about his ability to deliver candidates, including an embarrassing shellacking at the hands of Republican Rob Russo who filled the state senate seat vacated by Finch.
Well, Stafstrom delivered Finch for mayor, right? Wrong. Finch, (Mr. I’ll cut your taxes $600, a phony pledge sanctioned by Stafstrom) survived because State Rep. Chris Caruso ran a dumb race. Had he run the type of issues-based race Russo had, Caruso would be mayor. So, yes, in a strange way, all of this is Caruso’s fault!!! (Sorry Chris.)
The mayor committed to supporting Stafstrom a long time ago, so he now feels compelled to see it through.
Black Rock District Leader Danny Roach wants to be town chair as well. But for now at least Finch is pushing Stafstrom. “Look at all the money Stafstrom raises,” Finch cries about his king.
I know a little about the fundraising abilities of Stafstom and Testa. They’re both mighty. But Stafstrom doesn’t need to be party leader to raise money. “I’m worried about the Mario perception,” Finch tells DTC members.
Jesus, you want to govern by perception, okay … how’s this for perception: Finch right now is governing, by and large, incompetently. That’s the perception. Does that mean Finch should resign? No, you stay and hope to find your wings.
So, what’s the real reason Finch doesn’t want Mario? Finch is concerned that he’ll be neutered by Mario’s ability to navigate the political and governmental process beyond Finch’s control. That’s because If Mario becomes town chair (and it’s an if) he will not be bashful with Finch. Mario will tell him, I’ll work with you but if you continue to screw up, we’ll have problems. Then if Finch tells him to go pound more veal in his restaurant Mario will neuter him politically and search for a candidate to challenge him.
Welcome to the real world of politics.
This is why I’ve been screaming at Finch in this webzine to worry about governing. If you govern well the politics will follow. Don’t govern well and the politics become a big pain in the ass.
The following is the text of a letter to Mayor Bill Finch (dated March 15, 2008) signed by City Council member Evette Brantley and former City Council member Ralph Mojica, (recently dismissed from city employment to create an opening for a political patronage position) in which they allege “strong-arm tactics” by the mayor to persuade city employees on the Democratic Town Committee to vote for party leader John Stafstrom. I have asked the mayor’s office for a response. See letter below:
We are writing in protest of the unethical, strong-arm tactics that are being carried out by you and various members of your staff. With your public support for the Cynthia King/John Stafstrom tandem as Chair and Vice Chair of the Democratic Town Committee, you have compromised your duty as Chief Elected Official for our City. Recent changes in election laws forced John Strafstrom to resign as Town Chairman while serving as chair and Bond Council (sic) for the City of Bridgeport. The election laws prohibit his role as Chair and Bond Council (sic) as a conflict of interest. Moreover, Cynthia King serves as a “smokescreen” for John Stafstrom to continue running the Party from the post of Vice-Chair. This is a fraud upon the Democratic Party and the people we serve.
Your office’s overwhelming support of this unethical practice is unacceptable. Furthermore, your strong-arm tactics with City employees serves as a violation of ethical rule and a violation of the election laws of the State of Connecticut. It is clear that your office has taken the tone of threatening job security to City employees that may also serve on the Democratic Town Committee. You have insinuated that their vote for Chairperson will dictate the security of their employment. These practices have been common since your first day in office. In the March 11, 2008 edition of the Connecticut Post, your Chief of Staff Adam Wood was quoted as saying, “I’m here because I did a lot for Bill,” referring to his own employment. These are not the practices that the people of Bridgeport deserve.
We demand that you and your staff immediately stop these threats and intimidation tactics. Kindly let the members of the Town Committee have their independent voice without fear of consequences. Your role as Mayor is too extensive in duty to be putting priority on matters such as these.
M. Evette Brantley